Sprig's Pages

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Holiday of a Lifetime

Croatia Garden Festival 2009: Just two hours on a plane, but it's another world...

As my Twitterati friends will know, last week I came back from my week in Croatia. Two friends and I descended into the gorgeous country to go to the Garden Festival in Petrcane, combining the weekend of music and cocktails with a few days of sightseeing and sunbathing for what turned out to be the most relaxing holiday of my life.

Everyone's stre
ssed, so I won't pretend I am any more so than the rest of you. But. The last year (going from this time last year till now, specifically) has probably been the most stressful/eventful/worst/greatest of all my 23 years... the usual stuff, love, loss, work, health, etc. My previous holiday, in July 2008 was Ibiza - and I absolutely loved it. But it was slightly ruined by heartache so as much as I tried, I couldn't shake off thoughts of home. Fast forward a year later, and despite money worries over how much this damn festival (I never ever go to festivals, so I was wondering if I had made a huge mistake) was costing beforehand, as soon as we set eyes on the festival site and drove past the beautiful beach late one Monday evening, a sense of calm hit me for the first time in... I don't know how long. Here's why...


Petrcane is a small village near Zadar, and holds ten weeks of festivals throughout the summer - we just happened to choose the Garden Festival. The beaches are small, but still not crammed; they are not sandy, so get your jelly shoes ready for the sea because all those
pebbles under your feet is like a painful form of reflexology. As we went for the second weekend, with a few spare days before to do our own thing, the festival site was already in full swing so we popped by for cocktails in the Tiki Bar, and danced on the over-the-sea dancefloor on our first few nights.


Food wise, if you like It
alian you're laughing. If not, you better not be vegetarian. Pizza was everywhere - we found our favourite pizza place very quickly and met a lovely waiter who went on to teach us some very important Croatian lingo, including 'nice guy', 'he's a jerk' (my pronunciation of that one was apparently spot on, but I never had to use it!), and of course 'please' and 'thank you' as we're polite girls. Grilled and skewered meat were also on the menus everywhere, as were fish and English breakfasts, so we were pretty happy. Prices are reasonable too (you need to get used to Kuna to understand that though - about 8 Kunas = £1, so prepare to part with hundreds).


On day three of our holiday of a lifetime, we visited the Plitvicka Jezera National Park. Wow and indeed Za. The oldest National Park in
Croatia, there were waterfalls everywhere, small caves to crawl into, and stunning views. It felt a little like Jurassic Park with their small electric 'train' and the vast size of the place, as we were taken around by our Mr Bean-like tour guide, but it was unforgettable. A definite must see for anyone visiting!

Day four and we decided to venture further for our sunbathing - and discovered Nin. Just ten m
inutes away by bus, we walked along the port to eventually find small islands of sand with just a handful of sun seekers on - and you even had to wade through the shallow clear waters to reach them. No shade, no shops and hardly any people around, it was like a private little set of islands in the sea that only a few lucky people knew about. The water was as warm as a bath, and so shallow that you could wander across to other parts, or as we did, take photos of us running through it (as it looks like you're miraculously walking on water).

We were told by a fellow sunbather that if you cross to one of the little islands, there is mud which is good for your skin which people were plastering all over themselves. Why not, we thought. So across we went and in what can only be described as one of the most disgusting feelings I've ever had, I stood in the soggy thick black mud, picked it up and smothered it on... giggling all the way. We looked a little odd, but so did everyone else. It dried, we took it off, and our skin felt smooth, but who knows if it did anything!We got some great pictures out of it with hand prints on our backs and mud wrestling poses...

For the nights out when the festival wasn't on, we went down to the festival site where bars were still open and everyone was hanging out. We played games of dare, danced in the
rain (it rained only one night), and videoed the lightning which was in the next town - stunning. We made friends, took photos and laughed so hard it hurt.


Our experience of the festival began with a boat party, starting at 1.30pm and lasting six hours. Armed with the festival's signature 'Funny Money', ours was called the Noah's Ark boat party, so we attempted to look a little animal-like (I wore a dress with a tropical bird print, one friend wore snakeskin-print, and another wore a feathery top). DJs were on board to entertain, alcohol was flowing (slowly, the queue was huge) and anyone with sea sickness was in trouble.

We had 'cabin crew' drawn on our arms by the Brew Crew, met a lovely group of people from Nottingham, and didn't want to sail home. The rowdy but fun hen party we'd met had dressed, cleverly, as hens, so there were feathers everywhere while people swang from ropes and sang along. We also bumped into someone who i
s from the same town as us back home and apparently used to be in my photography class at college - the world is definitely getting smaller! If you go to the festival, go to at least one boat party - it will be all you talk about for days and you'll make friends instantly. Oh, and take a hat, as I got sunstroke which almost ruined my night out back at the festival... almost :)

With an afterparty the next night, we first danced to the live acts which included Giles Peterson (and we even did some of the lighting for it), then on to Barbarella's Discotheque, where we partied all night with people we'd met, including our lovely neighbours (one of which was enjoying a holiday romance with my friend) and some lovely guys I'd spoken to earlier - Chris from Scotland, and Ben from the Midlands. We then walked back home as the sun rose to mark our penultimate day.

I have never been somewhere where literally everyone is lovely, friendly and it has to be said, good looking. Croatian folk are kind and helpful, while everyone who went to the festival were there for fun and games. The festival was clean (a relief for me, the festival virgin!) and well managed, with plenty to keep everyone entertained.

The only question for everyone was... Would you come again? Everyone said the same thing... they loved it so much that they wanted to, but also didn't want to for fear it wouldn't be as good - because we had a fuddy amazing time.


"I like strawberries and cream... they always make me feel real perky" in a Texas accent, can't remember why
"Fuddy hell"
"I am a special person, with special skills"
"In the house, on the boat, in the bar..."

For apartments in Petrcane, email Gail on gail@thegardenzadar.com. Our apartment was small but brand new and perfectly formed.

Lightning, our view from the dancefloor


  1. Great post....sounds amazing may look into going next year. We stayed in Zadar when I went to Croatia and it s indeed gorgeous round there! Oooh - and love the polaroids :) x

  2. Thank you! It really was gorgeous and the festival is so worth it. Thanks for the polaroid tip - hope ya don't mind!

    I'm preserving my Polaroid camera and film for a rainy day! x

  3. Aw I'm glad you had such a lovely, relaxing time! Looks like it was a fab holiday and the best way to pop your festival cherry!